An Oregon chef’s picnic menu celebrates the bold flavors and easy elegance of the Mediterranean.
Picnics always bring me back to the time when I worked in southern France, where people feast in the open air whenever they have the chance. So for this menu I decided to celebrate everything I love about the Mediterranean: The wise cooks, who instinctively rely on what’s in season at the local market. The straightforward cooking techniques. And, above all, the irresistible flavors—sweet, ripe tomatoes; tangy lemons, capers, and artichokes; and Moroccan spices, which are extremely popular in the South of France.
In keeping with the laid-back spirit of picnicking, sandwiches are the heart of this menu. My olive-oil–poached tuna salad sandwiches and the mini Moroccan-spiced chicken breast sandwiches are hearty, easy to make, and even easier to eat.
Sandwiches that taste great and travel well begin with a base of nice chewy bread, like focaccia or ciabatta. I cut the bread into fairly thick slices and lightly toast them, which prevents the filling from making the bread soggy. I use substantial flavorful spreads or jams instead of thin, drippy sauces. I don’t pile on the fillings because smallish sandwiches are much easier to eat. And I keep the components of the sandwiches separate from one another until just before I leave—or I assemble the sandwiches on the spot at the picnic site.
A trio of cool accompaniments rounds out the meal. My yellow tomato gazpacho is bright and cool, and it travels easily in a thermos. The spicy-sweet couscous salad goes well with both sandwiches. And, as for the watermelon, well, in the dog days of summer, there’s not a better dessert in the world.
All the recipes in this menu can be prepared in advance, assembled quickly, transported easily, and served chilled or at room temperature. The only utensils you’ll need are a spoon and your fingers.